Tom Cleverley: Watford interim boss wants to inject positivity into faltering season

Watford interim head coach Tom Cleverley says one of his tasks is to "change the mindset" of the squad as he tries to reinvigorate their underwhelming Championship season.

Cleverley took over from Valerien Ismael, who was sacked after Saturday's defeat by Coventry which left the club with only one win in 10 league games.

His first match in charge is Saturday's trip to struggling Birmingham City.

"I know the Championship - every game is a challenge," the 34-year-old said.

Former Manchester United and England midfielder Cleverley had been coaching the Hornets' under-18 side after he retired from playing in July 2023.

He had three spells with Watford, the final one ending after six seasons because of injuries.

When Cleverley rejoined Watford from Everton in 2017, they were in the top flight and would stay for three seasons before relegation to the Championship was immediately followed by promotion back to the top division.

Another relegation followed before his retirement, with Cleverley limited to only five appearances in the 2022-23 campaign.

He said his temporary stint in charge gives him the chance to complete some unfinished business at Vicarage Road.

"When I retired it didn't sit right with me that I left the club in a worse position than when I arrived," he told BBC Three Counties Radio.

"Now I've got the chance to put that right, even for a short period - and that motivates me massively,"

Cleverley inherits a team that has won only once since mid-January, and that was against bottom club Rotherham.

And he knows confidence at the club needs a boost.

"I've tried to come in with a high energy, be positive, and lift the environment a little bit - and that's no disrespect to the previous manager - but it (low confidence) comes naturally with poor results.

"[I want to] try to change to mindset a little bit, motivate them that there's still a lot to play for, and maybe a couple of tactical tweaks.

"Hopefully a combination of all three of them will see some real positive results."

'I want everyone to go away in the summer with excitement for next season'

Cleverley says his transition into the head coach role has been "comfortable" and "smooth", and that he wants his team to play with "high energy" and "for the badge".

A perceived lack of an attacking approach was a criticism aimed at Ismael but Cleverley says that cannot happen overnight.

"Every manager will sit here and say they want a fast-flowing, attacking style of football but there are certain levels you need to go through to get to that," he said.

"Hopefully, we are playing in the opposition's half and dominating games, and being organised behind the ball."

His first test comes against a Blues side one point clear of the relegation zone.

Cleverley says although "there has not been a much sleep" in the build-up he has had "good tunnel vision in preparing" for the game, which he says will not be any easier because of Birmingham's position.

"It doesn't always work as you expect, Birmingham away isn't any easier than Leicester, Leeds or Southampton," he said.

"I want everyone to go away in the summer with a real excitement for next season."